The Commercial Space Age Is Here
In May of 2020, SpaceX made history as the first private company to send humans into space. This marks not only a tremendous technological achievement, but also the first indication that an entirely new “space-for-space” industry — that is, goods and services designed to supply space-bound customers — could be close at hand. In the first stage of this burgeoning economy, private companies must sell to NASA and other government customers, since today, those organizations are the only source of in-space demand. But as SpaceX has demonstrated, private companies now have not just the desire, but also the ability to send people into space. And once we have private citizens in space, SpaceX and other companies will be poised to supply the demand they’ve created, creating a market that could dwarf the current government-led space industry (and eventually, the entire terrestrial economy as well). It’s a huge opportunity — now our task is simply to seize it.
There’s no shortage of hype surrounding the commercial space industry. But while tech leaders promise us moon bases and settlements on Mars, the space economy has thus far remained distinctly local — at least in a cosmic sense. Last year, however, we crossed an important threshold: For the first time in human history, humans accessed space via a vehicle built and owned not by any government, but by a private corporation with its sights set on affordable space settlement. It was the first significant step towards building an economy both in space and for space. The implications — for business, policy, and society at large — are hard to overstate.
In 2019, 95% of the estimated $366 billion in revenue earned in the space sector was from the space-for-earth economy: that is, goods or services produced in space for use on earth. The space-for-earth economy includes telecommunications and internet infrastructure, earth observation capabilities, national security satellites, and more. This economy is booming, and though research shows that it faces the challenges of overcrowding and monopolization that tend to arise whenever companies compete for a scarce natural resource, projections for its future are optimistic. Decreasing costs for launch and space hardware in general have enticed new entrants into this market, and companies in a variety of industries have already begun leveraging satellite technology and access to space to drive innovation and efficiency in their earthbound products and services.
In contrast, the space-for-space economy — that is, goods and services produced in space for use in space, such as mining the Moon or asteroids for material with which to construct in-space habitats or supply refueling depots — has struggled to get off the ground. As far back as the 1970s, research commissioned by NASA predicted the rise of a space-based economy that would supply the demands of hundreds, thousands, even millions of humans living in space, dwarfing the space-for-earth economy (and, eventually, the entire terrestrial economy as well). The realization of such a vision would change how all of us do business, live our lives, and govern our societies — but to date, we’ve never even had more than 13 people in space at one time, leaving that dream as little more than science fiction.
Today, however, there is reason to think that we may finally be reaching the first stages of a true space-for-space economy. SpaceX’s recent achievements (in cooperation with NASA), as well as upcoming efforts by Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic to put people in space sustainably and at scale, mark the opening of a new chapter of spaceflight led by private firms. These firms have both the intention and capability to bring private citizens to space as passengers, tourists, and — eventually — settlers, opening the door for businesses to start meeting the demand those people create over the next several decades with an array of space-for-space goods and services.
Welcome to the (Commercial) Space Age
In our recent research, we examined how the model of centralized, government-directed human space activity born in the 1960s has, over the last two decades, made way for a new model, in which public initiatives in space increasingly share the stage with private priorities. Centralized, government-led space programs will inevitably focus on space-for-earth activities that are in the public interest, such as national security, basic science, and national pride. This is only natural, as expenditures for these programs must be justified by demonstrating benefits for citizens — and the citizens these governments represent are (nearly) all on earth.
In contrast to governments, the private sector is eager to put people in space to pursue their own personal interests, not the state’s — and then supply the demand they create. This is the vision driving SpaceX, which in its first twenty years has entirely upended the rocket launch industry, securing 60% of the global commercial launch market and building ever-larger spacecraft designed to ferry passengers not just to the International Space Station (ISS), but also to its own promised settlement on Mars.
Today, the space-for-space market is limited to supplying the people who are already in space: that is, the handful of astronauts employed by NASA and other government programs. While SpaceX has grand visions of supporting large numbers of private space travelers, their current space-for-space activities have all been in response to demand from government customers (i.e., NASA). But as decreasing launch costs enable companies like SpaceX to leverage economies of scale and put more people into space, growing private sector demand (that is, tourists and settlers, rather than government employees) could turn these proof-of-concept initiatives into a sustainable, large-scale industry.
This model — of selling to NASA with the hopes of eventually creating and expanding into a larger private market — is exemplified by SpaceX, but the company is by no means the only player taking this approach. For instance, while SpaceX is focused on space-for-space transportation, another key component of this burgeoning industry will be manufacturing.
Made In Space, Inc. has been at the forefront of manufacturing “in space, for space” since 2014, when it 3D-printed a wrench onboard the ISS. Today, the company is exploring other products, such as high-quality fiber-optic cable, that terrestrial customers may be willing to pay to have manufactured in zero-gravity. But the company also recently received a $74 million contract to 3D-print large metal beams in space for use on NASA spacecraft, and future private sector spacecraft will certainly have similar manufacturing needs which Made In Space hopes to be well-positioned to fulfill. Just as SpaceX has begun by supplying NASA but hopes to eventually serve a much larger, private-sector market, Made In Space’s current work with NASA could be the first step along a path towards supporting a variety of private-sector manufacturing applications for which the costs of manufacturing on earth and transporting into space would be prohibitive.
Another major area of space-for-space investment is in building and operating space infrastructure such as habitats, laboratories, and factories. Axiom Space, a current leader in this field, recently announced that it would be flying the “first fully private commercial mission to space” in 2022 onboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule. Axiom was also awarded a contract for exclusive access to a module of the ISS, facilitating its plans to develop modules for commercial activity on the station (and eventually, beyond it).
This infrastructure is likely to spur investment in a wide array of complementary services to supply the demand of the people living and working within it. For example, in February 2020, Maxar Technologies was awarded a $142 million contract from NASA to develop a robotic construction tool that would be assembled in space for use on low-Earth orbit spacecraft. Private sector spacecraft or settlements will no doubt have need for a variety of similar construction and repair tools.
And of course, the private sector isn’t just about industrial products. Creature comforts also promise to be an area of rapid growth, as companies endeavor to support the human side of life in the harsh environment of space. In 2015, for example, Argotec and Lavazza collaborated to build an espresso machine that could function in the zero-gravity environment of the ISS, delivering a bit of everyday luxury to the crew.
To be sure, people have dreamt of using the vacuum and weightlessness of space to source or make things that cannot be made on earth for half a century, and time and again the business case has failed to pan out. Skepticism is natural. Those failures, however, have been in space-for-earth applications. For example, two startups of the 2010s, Planetary Resources, Inc. and Deep Space Industries, recognized the potential of space mining early on. For both companies, however, the lack of a space-for-space economy meant that their near-term survival depended on selling mined material — precious metals or rare elements — to earthbound customers. When it became clear that demand was insufficient to justify the high costs, funding dried up, and both companies pivoted to other ventures.
These were failures of space-for-earth business models — but the demand for in-space mining of raw building material, metals, and water will be enormous once humans are living in space (and are therefore far cheaper to supply). In other words, when people are living and working in space, we are likely to look back on these early asteroid mining companies less as failures and more as simply ahead of their time.
Seizing the Space-for-Space Opportunity
The opportunity presented by the space-for-space economy is huge — but it could easily be missed. To seize this moment, policymakers must provide regulatory and institutional frameworks that will enable the risk-taking and innovation necessary for a decentralized, private-sector-driven space economy. There are three specific policy areas we believe will be especially important:
1. Enabling private individuals to take on greater risk than would be tolerable for government-employed astronauts.
First, as part of a general shift to that more decentralized, market-oriented space sector, policymakers should consider allowing private space tourists and settlers to voluntarily take on more risk than states would tolerate for government-employed astronauts. In the long run, ensuring high safety levels will be essential to convince larger numbers of people to travel or live in space, but in the early years of exploration, too great an aversion to risk will stop progress before it starts.
An instructive analogy can be found in how NASA works with its contractors: In the mid-2000s, NASA shifted from using cost-plus contracts (in which NASA shouldered all the economic risk of investing in space) to fixed-price contracts (in which risk was distributed between NASA and their contractors). Because of private companies’ greater tolerance for risk, this shift catalyzed a burst of activity in the sector — sometimes referred to as “New Space.” A similar shift in how we approach voluntary risk-taking by private-sector astronauts may be necessary in order to launch the space-for-space economy.
2. Judiciously implementing government regulation and support.
Second, as with most markets, developing a stable space economy will depend on judicious government regulation and support. NASA and the U.S. Commerce and State Departments’ recent recommitment to “create a regulatory environment in [low-Earth orbit] that enables American commercial activities to thrive” is a good sign that the government is on a path of continued collaboration with industry, but there’s still a long way to go.
Governments should start by clarifying how property rights over limited resources such as water on Mars, ice on the Moon, or orbital slots (i.e., “parking spots” in space) will be governed. Recent steps — including NASA’s offer to purchase lunar soil and rocks, last April’s Executive Order on the governance of space resources, and the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — indicate that the U.S. government is interested in establishing some form of regulatory framework to support the economic development of space.
In 2017, Luxembourg became the first European country to establish a legal framework securing private rights over resources mined in space, and similar steps have been taken at the domestic level in Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Moreover, nine countries (though Russia and China are notably missing) have signed the Artemis Accords, which lay out a vision for the sustainable, international development of the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. These are important first steps, but they have yet to be clearly translated into comprehensive treaties that govern the fair use and allocation of scarce space resources among all major spacefaring nations.
In addition, governments should continue to fill the financial gaps in the still-maturing space-for-space economic ecosystem by funding basic scientific research in support of sending humans to space, and by providing contracts to space startups. Similarly, while excessive regulation will stifle the industry, some government incentives, such as policies to reduce space debris, can help reduce the costs of operating in space for everyone in ways that would be difficult to coordinate independently.
3. Moving beyond geopolitical rivalries.
Finally, the development of the space-for-space economy must not be undermined by earthly geopolitical rivalries, such as that between the United States and China. These conflicts will unavoidably extend into space at least to some extent, and military demand has long been an important source of funding for aerospace companies. But if not kept in check, such rivalries will not only distract attention and resources from borderless commercial pursuits but also create barriers and risks that hamper private investment.
On earth, private economic activity has long tied together people whose states are at odds. The growing space-for-space economy offers exceptional potential to be such a force for unity — but it’s the job of the world’s governments not to get in the way. A collaborative, international approach to establishing — and enforcing — the rule of law in space will be essential to encouraging a healthy space-for-space economy.
Visions of a space-for-space economy have been around since the dawn of the Space Age in the 1960s. Thus far, those hopes have gone largely unmet — but this moment is different. For the first time in history, the private sector’s capital, risk tolerance, and profit motive are being channeled into putting people in space. If we seize this opportunity, we will look back on 2020 as the year when we started the truly transformational project of building an economy and a society in space, for space.
Matthew Weinzierl is the Joseph and Jacqueline Elbling Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His teaching and research focus on the design of economic policy and the economics and business of space.
Mehak Sarang is a Research Associate at Harvard Business School and the Lunar Exploration Projects Lead for the MIT Space Exploration Initiative.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Space Tourism – A 2021 Guide
“Space travel is returning to where it started: with maverick pioneers dreaming of journeys to orbit and beyond, some carrying out rocket experiments in their own backyards. The rise of citizen astronauts has already begun.”
Arthur C Clarke Forward to SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History 2008
Since private individuals first started visiting the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001 via the Space Adventures company, the dream of being able to travel into space for the masses is slowly becoming closer to reality.
So far seven space tourists have gone into orbit on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a week-long stay on the ISS 400km above the Earth and for the future that number will expand. During 2021 both Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin flew into sub-orbit “near-space”, with Branson reaching over 50 miles altitude in the “Unity” SpaceShipTwo vehicle and Bezos achieving over 62 miles height in the New Shepard capsule.
In the USA, 50 miles is the set definition of where “space” begins, whilst internationally it is considered to be at the 62 mile (100km) “Karman Line” height Others will be following as new orbital spacecraft come on-stream and the ticket price is gradually lowered.
In September 2021, Space X successfully flew the three-day “Inspiration 4” private orbital mission into Earth orbit. Paid for by the lead private astronaut Jared Isaacman, this $200m fund-raising and research flight sent four private astronauts, or “space participants” as some like to be called, into a 366 mile (590km) high orbit – this was well above the 250 mile (400km) orbiting height of the ISS.
Also, in late 2021 Blue Origin flew the actor William Shatner – “Captain Kirk” in the original Star Trek series – to sub-orbit space onboard the New Shepard rocket. This was followed by the “private astronaut” visit of Russian actress Yulia Peresild to the ISS on a Soyuz flight for movie filming – for the future, US actor Tom Cruise has been mentioned as another possible visitor to the ISS for filming purposes.
The astronauts spent their time enjoying zero-g, fully experiencing the thrill of being in space and taking in the extraordinary views of the Earth through a glass-domed “cupola” positioned at the tip of their cone-shaped Crew Dragon spacecraft “Resilience”. One crew member, Hayley Arcenaux, at 29 yrs. old became the youngest US astronaut to go into space. The Crew Dragon spacecraft flew entirely automatically, although the crew and ground-control could have intervened if the flight was not proceeding nominally.
As the first purely private orbital spaceflight, this history-making mission has paved the way for future non-government-sponsored astronauts to go into space – it showed that normal “people in the street” can train for a few weeks, launch, and experience spaceflight safely. Similar to the way that the 1920-30s gradually saw the introduction of safer and more reliable airliner travel for ordinary citizens, so the coming decades will see an accelerating expansion of regular orbital “space tourism” with no essential requirement for outstanding fitness or advanced astronaut skills for the participants.
In the near future, thousands more private astronauts should be going into sub-orbital space too, traveling to 80-100km altitudes, via Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes and Blue Origin’s New Shepard rockets.
But what are the benefits and drawbacks of space tourism – is space tourism a good idea?
Significance of Space Tourism
A key benefit of space tourism is that it offers a new leisure industry service by meeting the pent-up demand of space travel for individuals. It allows aspiring private astronauts access to an “ultimate trip” beyond the Earth’s atmosphere – its economic and social consequences are comparable to those resulting from the development of civil jet airliners like the Boeing 747 which opened up mass and affordable international travel from the late 1960s.
Over sixty years of continuous human spaceflight, out of 7.3 billion people on the planet just over 600 have been into space. And apart from the seven Space Adventure “space participants”, almost all of these astronauts have been funded by governments as part of ongoing space program projects.
The 2002 book “Spaceflight Revolution” by David Ashford of Bristol Spaceplanes pointed out that the potential demand for human spaceflight is very large. He noted that market research in Japan and Canada in the late 1990s suggested that at that time approximately 7.5% of the industrialized population of the world apparently wanted to experience a spaceflight at least once in their lifetime. A resulting market demand estimate of at least one million space passengers flying per year could be concluded from those studies – this was assuming of course that this spaceflight could be affordable and was relatively safe.
The emerging new space vehicles, the Space-X Crew Dragon and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner for orbital access and the Virgin Galactic’s (VG) SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft for suborbital flights, will soon provide a long-anticipated breakthrough for aspiring astronaut explorers, scientists, and private “space participants”.
Interested in learning to fly a microlight? Check out this article, here.
Why is Space Tourism Important?
Why do so many people want to travel into space and where does that desire come from? Are there advantages and disadvantages of space research?
Many believe that space travel is ingrained into the human psyche, as part of a natural desire to explore and find out more about our surroundings in the wider Cosmos.
The private astronaut Anousheh Ansari, who flew to the ISS on Soyuz TMA-9 via the Space Adventures company in 2006, describes in her book “My Dream of Stars” how as a child she would sleep out under the stars on family camping trips in Iran – from that point she became gripped by the fascination, wonder and deep desire of traveling into the Cosmos.
The desire for the “overview effect” of seeing the beauty and significance of the planet from space drives many aspiring astronauts. Frank White coined this phrase in the 1980’s – it applies to the many astronauts who have noted this emotion, which for some is a transformative experience….Beth Moses, suborbital astronaut and Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic describes this, saying:“ The view is the star of the show”.
Whatever the individual reasons for a personal spaceflight experience, many believe that the benefits of space tourism will be strong – there will be a significant lowering of the cost of access to space, enabling a more rapid and viable human space exploration process and possible eventual colonization of parts of the Moon, Mars and the Solar System, with significant benefits to the world’s economy, as well as to science research and technological progress.
How Much Is a Ticket To Space?
In terms of future prices, the emerging sub-orbital flights available with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin will cost about £200-300,000 a ticket. This is obviously a low figure when compared to the high costs of spaceflight offered by the early days of the space program approach that government space agencies have established.
Space X “Dragon” Capsule after recovery. Image David @Flickr
Private orbital spaceflights will be much more expensive, but they are reducing over time. These will soon be available in future years via companies like Axiom and Space Adventures on the new 4-7 seat Space-X Crew Dragon, or 4-seat Boeing CST-100 Starliner orbital spacecraft, as well as via the current Russian 3-seat Soyuz capsules.
Looking at space tourism facts and costs, the early orbital ticket prices in the 2000s were approximately £15m per 10-day mission, expanding to £25m for later flights. These flights included trips via Soyuz for Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Gregory Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, Charles Simonyi who flew twice, plus Guy Laliberte. In 2008, UK-born Richard Garriott de Cayeux, son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, flew to the ISS on Soyuz TMA-12.
With the new Space X and Boeing spacecraft, access to orbital space is likely to be relatively cheaper than via Soyuz which is currently costing NASA about £70m per flight, though a price competition should evolve over time.
Bigelow Aerospace has booked four space participant slots on the Crew Dragon for about £40m each. Boeing’s Starliner prices are expected to be more costly though, perhaps running at £55m per seat. More recently, the US company Axiom Space signed a contract with Space X to fly three fare-paying private astronauts, plus a pilot astronaut, on a mission to the ISS as early as 2021.
Space Adventures have suggested EVA possibilities for participants and lunar flights have been considered.
NASA are now more enthusiastic over “commercial astronaut” visitors using the ISS, with $35,000 a day accommodation prices being quoted, excluding flight access costs. Once the Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft provide a regular service with potentially seven crew per flight, so the ISS can be staffed by additional research crew and visitors, with additional accommodation pods being installed – the science research output will of course be boosted via easier crew access.
For the longer term, private human access to orbit and beyond should become even more affordable. An unknown for the late 2020s onwards is the Space-X “Starship” project – this is the 5,000 tonne two-stage reusable vehicle that Elon Musk expects may slash orbital access and deep-space flight prices. An early free-return lunar flight of the “Starship” is being proposed for Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, together with his intended crew of 6-8 “artists”.
Clearly, private spaceflight is going to reduce overall costs to the benefit of both space agencies and tourism companies.
In terms of the benefits and drawbacks of space tourism and the worry that some space vehicles will be lost during the initial period of private spaceflight, many would consider this in the same terms as early flying and airline development which saw some losses of civil aircraft before technology enhancements provided today’s flight reliability and good airline safety records.
Many will recall the sad loss of NASA’s space shuttle Challenger in 1986 when astronaut-teacher Christa McAuliffe together with her six other crew members was killed during the vehicle explosion shortly after launch.
Richard Branson, here seen with designer Burt Rutan in 2014, has been determined to minimise the potential dangers of flights on the emerging SpaceShipThree spaceplane, taking on-board the lessons of early flight testing. (Image Steve Jurvetson).
In Oct. 2014 the Virgin Galactic sub-orbital VSS Enterprise spacecraft broke-up during a drop test and rocket burn and one of the two crew members died. SS2 design modifications were subsequently made and the company is determined to maximise passenger safety and enjoyment.
WhiteKnightTwo (VMS Eve) and SpaceShipTwo (VSS Enterprise – lost in 2014). Image Robert Sullivan
Blue Origin also lost a sub-orbital vehicle in April 2015 during an uncrewed test flight.
Safety is clearly a key consideration to the emerging tourist spaceflight companies and it can be expected that a measured step-by-step approach to flight testing will minimize these dangers and potential losses during the early years of private spaceflight.
Scientist-Astronaut Suborbital Flights
Why is space tourism important?
Science will benefit from space tourism and the reduced cost of access to space. For example, NASA recently announced the formation of its new Sub-orbital Crew Office (“Sub-C”), with Scott Colloredo as its Head. This new approach should boost access to space for an enlarged group of both space-agency and private scientist astronauts.
The new grouping will seek agreements with VG and Blue Origin for both astronaut training and microgravity science experiment flights – both companies have flown automated NASA experiments on test flights to date and have designed their cabin interiors to flexibly allow for future experiment racks, instead of passenger couches.
Aspiring private or government scientist flight participants who are seeking relatively low-cost 3-5 minute microgravity periods will consider these two approaches as very appealing, being well ahead of the 20 second periods of microgravity offered by parabola flights in aircraft. (Image: ESA/ Novespace)
The scientific benefits of future private access to the orbiting ISS space station’s research facilities, plus one day the Moon and Mars bases, will be strong. The significance of space tourism is that it should accelerate the development of space exploration generally.
Disadvantages of Space Exploration
A possibility is that the potential CO2 output from regular launch vehicles for enhanced space tourism may be a drawback to address. Carbon offset policies will be the likely solution to this issue, combined with the possible use of rocket bio-fuels and eventually in-situ resources from asteroids, the Moon, and Mars.
Considering the benefits and drawbacks of space tourism, it appears that an increase in Earth orbit activity will have some limited negative impact on “space traffic” and increase to some extent the dangers of orbital debris collisions.
However, the increase in space “debris” from orbital access for space tourism can be countered by mitigation and rocket stage recovery – Space X is seeking to recover much of their Falcon and Starship launchers and Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are fully reusable systems, plus protocols on launch activity for the future will require more satellite and spacecraft recovery and de-orbiting measures.
Is Space Tourism a Good Idea?
Point to point high-speed rocket travel is a future benefit that will occur from sub-orbital space tourism – already Virgin Galactic is proposing a “SpaceShipThree” that will fly at high-speed/high altitudes for rapid intercontinental access across the globe, heralding a leap forward in rapid mass travel across the planet.
Disturbance from sonic booms resulting from space tourism will need to be limited for regular flight operations, as occurs for supersonic flights by civil and military aircraft over land.
If the early possible “teething” issues of flight safety, environmental, and traffic matters can be addressed and mitigated, the future of space tourism for a post-Covid world looks very promising. Economic benefits via reduced costs for space launchers, plus an acceleration of space technology development will be a very positive outcome from this tourism sector.
Images Jeff Foust, Robert Sullivan, Steve Jurvetson, David Creative Commons
Commercial Space Travel: Is This the Future of Flights?
The idea of space travel has always fascinated humans. Ever since the first rocket was launched into space, people have dreamed about traveling to other planets and exploring what is out there in the universe. As technology has advanced over time, it’s become possible for more and more people to pursue this dream and make their life-long wish a reality. Space tourism companies are now developing new methods of space travel that will allow us to explore space without having to be a scientist or even an astronaut!
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This article will discuss commercial space flights – how they’re being developed, who is taking them, and whether or not these flights will be successful in fulfilling everyone’s dreams of exploring outer space.”
Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline. With its sister company, The Spaceship Company, it is developing and operating a new type of space vehicle to open space for everyone.
Virgin Galactic has created a reusable SpaceShipTwo spaceflight system. It consists of WhiteKnightTwo, a custom-built, carrier aircraft, and SpaceShipTwo., The world’s first passenger-carrying spaceship was built by a private company and is now being used in commercial service.
WhiteKnightTwo is a modified, four-engine, dual-fuselage jet aircraft used to fly SpaceShipTwo to 50,000 feet.
The idea behind air-launching space vehicles is not new, but it optimizes safety and the passenger experience while preserving energy.
The first WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve, was rolled out in 2008 and has completed an extensive test flight program. The catamaran design provides a large and easily accessible payload area that makes separation easy when the spaceship is released. The ship’s twin cabins come from the same mold as the spaceship, providing both a cost-effective option for mass production and also a training platform for the crew.
SpaceShipTwo is a new reusable spacecraft designed to hold eight people and fly them in space.SpaceShipTwo is powered by a hybrid rocket motor that aims to combine the simplicity of solid rocket engines with the controllability of liquid. SpaceShipTwo’s rocket motor can be shut down at any point during the flight.
Virgin Galactic’s current operational SpaceShipTwo, the first to be manufactured by The Spaceship Company, was unveiled in 2016 and named VSS Unity by Professor Stephen Hawking.
“We are at the dawn of a golden age of space exploration which will transform our relationship with the Earth and with the cosmos”.
-Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Galactic-
Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin to enable humankind to live in space to improve Earth. Blue Origin hopes that going into space will relieve Earth and believes that we need humanity’s expansion, exploration, finding new energy resources and materials, and focusing on industries that stress Earth as a step towards achieving our mission.
Blue Origin targets the 20th of July 2021 for its first suborbital sightseeing trip on the New Shepard spacecraft. The event marks the beginning of a new era in commercial space travel. The New Shepard space vehicle is set to fly six passengers over 100 kilometers above the earth’s surface.
The capsule is said to have tall observation windows, and Blue Origin claims they are three times larger than any current commercial aircraft.
Five will be occupied by astronauts of the six seats on Blue Origin’s first flight into space. The sixth seat will go to the winner of a nationwide auction which, as of the 24th of May 2021, is fetching a staggering $2.8m.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is an American company in California. The company was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with a goal of reducing the cost of space transportation so that humans can colonize Mars.SpaceX manufactures the Falcon 9 Rocket and Heavy launch vehicles, several rocket engines, Dragon space cargo ship, crew orbiter spacecraft and Starlink satellite communications links.
Elon Musk recently unveiled a new seven-seat Crew Dragon for commercial space travel. The Dragon is the only spacecraft that can fly back to Earth with a significant amount of cargo. It was also the first private spacecraft to take humans into space.
The design for the capsule is similar to the Apollo command modules that carried astronauts to the moon. The space vessel is connected for the duration of the launch to a section called the trunk, which has solar panels, radiators to remove heat from the capsule, room for cargo, and surfaces with fins that provide stability during emergency aborts. The capsule is about 8.1m (26.7ft) tall and 4m (13ft) in diameter.
The Crew Dragon is equipped with 16 thrusters. Each thruster can produce 90 pounds of force in the vacuum of space.
The Dragon spacecraft is equipped with two drogue parachutes to stabilize the spacecraft following reentry and four main parachutes to decelerate it even more before landing.
Who is buying tickets to space?
Commercial space travel is becoming a booming business as more people wish to take part in the next frontier. At this point, there are already people traveling on suborbital jets. However, this all comes at a high cost. Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for a space flight when considering rival plans announced by Virgin Galactic, which is expected to charge $250,000 but has not yet finalized pricing.
Star-gazing is about to take a new meaning as Richard Brandson’s space flight company has attracted celebrities like Justin Bieber, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Katy Perry.
Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, has purchased a ticket to take SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on his first ride around the moon. Maezawa, a 42-year-old Japanese businessman, founded Zozo, Japan’s largest online fashion retailer. Plans are being made for a Big Falcon Rocket that is still just in production now.
“I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world, including me,” Maezawa said. “They will be asked to create something after they return to Earth. These masterpieces will inspire others and make people dream again.”
The list of people registered for space travel includes more than just celebrities, entrepreneurs, and wall street investors. Mrs. Maisonrouge, a space enthusiast and fan of the Apollo 11 mission, has many memories of how humans first set foot on the moon. The 61-year-old business school professor signed up back in 2005 for the promise of five minutes in zero-gravity, paying $250,000 to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
For a quarter of a million dollars, people can get to see the earth from space just as they would in an exclusive first-class cabin. Virgin Galactic’s surging demand for its trips to space will far exceed supply in the short term, which may result in price increases. Although this reflects a healthy interest in commercial space travel, it also shows that such efforts still have a way to go before they catch on with the mainstream.
Will commercial space travel be a success?
With the push for technological advances and further exploration, accidents unfortunately happen. Spacecraft are complicated systems with countless aspects to be considered when planning missions, simulating them on Earth, or testing them. Failure often means the destruction of the craft and, in turn, death.
Michael Alsbury, who has died aged 39, after Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert, about 150km north of Los Angeles. The unfortunate incident occurred on the 31st of October 2014 when Michael Alsbury unlocked the feathering system at Mach 0.92 instead of at Mach 1.4, which resulted in a rapid extension of the feather system.
Each disaster that we’ve encountered in the past 50 years has improved our safety standards on space travel: Apollo 1 fire (January 27, 1967), The mission STS-51L Challenger (January 28, 1986), Disaster on Soyuz 11 (June 29, 1971). Space Shuttle Columbia: February 1, 2003. The tragedy is often followed by opportunity as calamity brings new regulations for safer commercial space flight.
Three billionaires — Bezos, Musk, and Branson — have increasingly directed their attention in the last two decades to outer space, which NASA and other Earthlings define as beginning at 50 miles above sea level. This huge capital funding has been instrumental in making new strides in the field of space travel.
“It used to be a space race between countries, and now it’s a space race between billionaires.”
With its Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule, SpaceX has now entered the orbital tourism arena. SpaceX launched and returned two NASA astronauts with its spacecraft for the first time, in a historic mission for both Musk’s company and the U.S. space agency. SpaceX is the first private company to send humans into orbit, a feat only previously achieved by government agencies.
The New Shepard spacecraft lifted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas test site with successful takeoff and landing of crew capsule 10 minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff while reaching a peak altitude of 107 kilometers. The capsule featured several modifications intended to support human spaceflight, such as seats, new communications systems and displays, and environmental control systems to regulate temperature and humidity.
Though the capsule has yet to fly people, Blue Origin optimistic about starting flights in the near future. “I think we’re getting really close to flying humans.” “We’re getting there.” This successful mission puts us one step closer to launching astronauts into space.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic moves one step closer to commercial space flights by successfully putting the new VSS Unity spacecraft through an extensive engineering flight test on the 23rd of May 2021. Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc completed its first manned space flight, which flew at Mach 3 and reached 55.45 miles (89.2 kilometers) miles above the earth. Richard Branson was at the launch site to witness the historic event. He wrote a statement on Twitter saying, “Delighted to be on the flight line to watch Virgin Galactic’s first human spaceflight from the majestic Spaceport America.
Virgin Galactic fulfilled several test objectives during the flight, including:
- As part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, VSS Unity carried revenue-generating scientific research experiments.
- Collected data for two verification reports. These are required to get a license from the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Tested the spaceship’s upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls.
To commemorate the first human spaceflight from New Mexico. New Mexico’s state flag lies proudly on the exterior of Spaceship. In addition to green chiles, known for their history in New Mexico’s agricultural and culinary industries.
Pilots C.J. Sturckow and Dave Mackay, the space plane, landed at 11:45 am ET after completing the suborbital flight.
Space travel tourism grows in popularity as more corporations such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic provide sub-orbital flights for paying customers. Furthermore, in the future, when space tourism extends beyond Earth orbit, and lunar missions become a financial reality of space travel, interest in this industry will likely take off.